May 2, 2024 | by Daniel Giamario |


Introduction, by Barbara Taylor


TOTAMS Astrology is an evolving system of astrology sourced and developed since 1970 out of the direct experience of founding astrologer Daniel Giamario. Since that time, Daniel’s experiential and ceremonial work with the night sky has invited widespread participation, shaping and informing a philosophical and theoretical framework unique in the astrological community.

As with any paradigm (click here for definition), TOTAMS Astrology does not impose a rigid or mechanical approach. Rather, it is a distinct and open-ended framework that invites creativity and flexibility in future contributions to this particular field of astrological theory and practice.

As a pattern or a model, the TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm has unique features that form the foundation of this particular approach to astrology. The purpose of this article is to briefly enumerate these features at their current stage of development. For a more in-depth exploration of this material see the Shamanic Astrology Handbook and Origins of Shamanic Astrology books as well as the various courses referenced in the article below!


The TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm, by Daniel Giamario


Essential Principles 


There are two underlying assumptions that inform the TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm:

  1. We do not incarnate into this life as a ‘blank slate’, as expressed in the idea that individuals are born without mental content and therefore all knowledge comes from one’s life experience or perception. This approach holds that attitudes, habits, addictions, and expectations exist prior to encounters with our parents or the culture or historical time period we grow up within. In other words, there is a (personal) nature before we experience nurture. This nature includes DNA, family history, possible past-life material, and a mysterious “other” component which could include a karmic package separate from DNA or family, similar to what author James Hillman described as the “acorn” in referring to the mysterious daimon, or inner awareness of divine powers of guidance in a person’s life.


  1. Our life has meaning and purpose, which includes an “original intent” that directs us toward our life purpose. TOTAMS Astrology is therefore more like Jungian psychology, in that the bottom line for TOTAMS Astrology is the quest for meaning and purpose, rather than the pursuit of sex, will, power, or even survival. Even if there were no existence of a higher meaning or purpose or some transcendent, implicate order, our essence as a human being is nevertheless to create meaning and purpose.


Philosophical Framework


  1. The priority in applying TOTAMS Astrology is to describe the intent of the soul’s journey. This intent can never be quantified, thus this paradigm cannot be proven by the use of statistics or deterministic scientific methodology, which would be somewhat irrelevant.


  1. Within this paradigm, there are no dualistic or hierarchical judgments of good-bad, higher-lower, or right-wrong. Further, this system perceives the doctrine of “rulerships” (including astrological concepts such as detriments and exaltations) as a relic of the past that traps an individual in historical relativity. The evolution of TOTAMS Astrology includes a continuing attempt to eliminate all manner of hierarchical language.


  1. TOTAMS Astrology is not a system of prediction, but rather an inquiry into original intent that leads us to consciously align with our personal intent (as revealed in the individual chart) as well as with universal intent (in co-creation with Great Mystery).


  1. TOTAMS Astrology recognizes that objective time does not exist, therefore it is ultimately not possible for even the most gifted astrologer or the best astrological system to completely know or predict what will actually happen. This is because the astrologer is also a part of the greater unfolding of the One Reality (Great Mystery), and can therefore never be truly objective to it, or outside of it. It is, of course, possible to get rather close to this knowing and this is a good part of the thrill and value of astrology.


Foundational Elements 


  1. A unique understanding of the natal Moon: In this paradigm, the Moon position represents one’s lineage, or who we were before our encounter with parents, culture, or the historical time frame we incarnated into. In TOTAMS Astrology the view of the Moon has no connection to gender, including Masculine and Feminine elements. The Moon most clearly indicates the Mystery School we have previously mastered or have most closely identified with in the past.

When I began using this approach, the only other astrological school that had a view somewhat similar, but by no means identical, in seeing the Moon as related to the past, was Esoteric Astrology. However, they also considered the Moon as something dead or spent, with no relevance to current life.

Within this paradigm, the Moon is our lineage and comprises our attitudes, addictions, expectations, and a skill set that we come into life with. The Moon is our instinctive foundation, but it is ultimately not to be over-identified with. Our Moon can instead be used in support of current life purpose.

More recently, I have noticed other astrologers beginning to share in this view. Much of mainstream astrology nevertheless maintains a rather patriarchal view of the moon as exclusively female or mainly connected to feelings and emotions.

  1. A unique approach to the Ascendant, as well as the other chart angles: In the 1970s, much of how mainstream astrology interpreted the Ascendant included things like: physical appearance, how a person presented him or herself to the world, personality features, or the persona.

The TOTAMS astrology paradigm sees it quite differently. The Ascendant clearly indicates the Mystery School being explored in the current life. The directional flow of the soul’s journey is toward the Ascendant and it is almost always something quite new to the individual. Esoteric Astrology also sees it this way. It’s interesting to note that in the original formulation of horoscopic astrology, the word “horoscope” meant the Ascendant and did not refer to the rest of the chart. This paradigm has a specific way of viewing the other three angles on the chart as also being entirely about current life intent.

  1. The use of the Lunar Nodes by house position to create the 144 storylines of lineage ( –> South Node house with the Moon) and the 144 storylines of current life intent ( –> North Node house with the Ascendant). The 12 house placements create 12 different versions of each of the 12 signs.

The resulting 144 possible storylines, which are nuanced expressions of the basic archetypal patterns of life, are revealed through the interweaving of the core meanings of the Moon, Ascendant, Lunar Nodes, and Houses. In this paradigm, whether referring to the lineage or the current life intent, these storylines are referred to as “the 12 jobs in the 12 tribes”, or “the 12 majors in the 12 Mystery Schools”.

  1. TOTAMS Astrology uses the Whole Sign House System exclusively, since 1999: This is an ancient system that simplifies the houses and eliminates confusion in several areas of chart interpretation. A discussion about this preference is included in the Shamanic Astrology Handbook.
  2. In TOTAMS Astrology, there is no emphasis placed on Sun signs: The over-emphasis on Sun sign typecasting is viewed as a remnant of patriarchal and monotheistic consciousness and is therefore limiting and outdated. Instead, this paradigm views the Sun as the symbol for the manifest expression of Great Mystery itself. It is therefore not to have any archetype projected onto it, including soul, self, or ego.  Rather, the Sun is the energy or fuel that the seasons of the earth’s cycles contain and express.
  3. The dynamic and evolutionary flow of the soul’s journey is described using the technique of viewing the chart as three movements in a symphony, or three acts in a play, or a dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. This view reinforces the priority of intent, as opposed to a rigid and static description of personality. Further, this approach describes the soul’s journey as a developmental process symbolized by the birth chart.
  4. A unique approach to the use of Venus and Mars: Rather than the popular over-emphasis on the Sun sign, TOTAMS Astrology perceives the sign of Mars on a man’s chart to be the archetype of current life intent for a man. Similarly, the sign of the Venus position on a woman’s chart indicates the archetype of current life intent for a woman. There are therefore 24 different and specific expressions of Masculinity and Femininity and these hold considerably more archetypal significance than the Sun sign.

Note: Topics 1-7 are covered extensively in TOTAMS Course 01, Understanding Birth Charts: The Journey of the Soul.

  1. The Inner Sacred Marriage Process: In this paradigm, the Mars position by sign for a woman, initially indicates a projected longing, or the archetype of relationship that she will tend to look for outside herself. A man’s Venus position similarly indicates his initially projected archetype of his longing for wholeness. Whether successful or not in literally manifesting this projection, these archetypes offer a major clue for what needs to develop internally in order to arrive at inner wholeness.

TOTAMS Astrology, therefore, posits that the path of a relationship can become an addition to one’s wholeness, rather than maintaining that a partner is necessary in order for a person to feel complete.

  1. The Six Relationship/Partnership Axes: The TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm uses an innovative approach for discovering the current life intent for partnership and relationship. These six paths are derived from combining the six pairs of Ascendants/Descendants.

Note: Topics 7–9 are covered extensively inTOTAMS Course 03, Relationships: Chart Comparison & Inner Wholeness.

  1. Transit cycles are perceived as indicating the varieties of initiation: This paradigm divides the cycles of initiations into three worlds or realms of experience: a) Upper World (Celestial World), using Neptune and Uranus; b) Middle World (the ordinary, apparently linear world of objective reality that occurs in real-time) using Saturn, Jupiter, and the Lunar Nodes; and c) Lower World (or Underworld), using Pluto and Chiron.

During the course of a lifetime, these cycles of initiation do not flow in a linear fashion. Any type of cycle could conceivably follow any other type of cycle. And importantly, as with all other aspects of the TOTAMS Astrological Paradigm, the various initiatory processes are never perceived as being either “good” or “bad”.

  1. The Shamanic Timeline: In addition to the cycles of initiation as indicated by the transits of the outer planets, TOTAMS Astrology uses a unique approach to the planetary cycles as measured from their positions of birth (such as the Saturn Return, the Jupiter Return etc.). Using this technique, it is possible to know which initiatory processes a person is undergoing simply by knowing their age.

Note: Topics 11 and 12 are covered extensively in TOTAMS Course 02, Tracking Transits: Seasons & Cycles.

  1. The use of Synodic Cycles of Venus, Mars, and Mercury: TOTAMS Astrology pioneered the reintroduction of the use of synodic cycles into modern astrology. The knowledge of the phases of these cycles helps to place an individual chart into the context of a much larger story. In addition, the synodic planetary return cycles are a crucial ingredient of the Shamanic Timeline. TOTAMS has an entire training dedicated to synodic cycles: Course 05, The Overstory: Cycles of Inner Planets
  2. Knowledge of the Turning of the Ages: I introduced the phrase “The Turning of the Ages” in the 1980s. This knowledge and direct experience of the intersections of the zodiac and the plane of our galaxy with the solstices and equinoxes over time provides a larger context in which to understand the importance of this particular time in history (the end and beginning of a 26,000 year cycle). From this foundation, we have the basis for understanding how the astrological signs and symbols, as well as the human and mythic storylines, change over time. See TOTAMS Course 04, Cosmology: Navigating The Night Sky.
  3. The TOTAMS Astrology Paradigm integrates the sign based (seasonal or directional) zodiac with the Sidereal zodiacs (the 12-fold divisions as well as the constellational versions). The cover of the Shamanic Astrology Handbook beautifully illustrates this integration.
  4. TOTAMS Astrology stems from unique chart analysis techniques combined with continual connection with and direct experience of the night sky.  This includes regular, kinesthetic experiences of the seasons, the cycles of the sun, moon and visible planets, and the constellational patterns. The insights of TOTAMS are derived primarily from this personal, direct relationship. This approach equally values astrology and astronomy. In fact, the full certification track for an initiated TOTAMS Astrologer requires the night sky component. The aim of TOTAMS is for practitioners to form a personal relationship with the planetary and stellar patterns.
  5. TOTAMS has a ‘naked eye’ emphasis: This form of astrology is designed to be functional at any time in history, with or without the aid of technology or telescopic enhancements.
  6. TOTAMS recognizes as its foundation the Hermetic dictum, “As Above, So Below, As Within, So Without”. Within this approach, this is not merely an intellectual philosophy but an actual reality, requiring the knowledge and experience of the seasons and cycles of the earth in space. This reality is part of a perennial, magical worldview and is not the same as the scientific, cause-and-effect, and more deterministic ‘modern’ world view.

Endnote: The TOTAMS Astrological Paradigm was previously known as the Shamanic Astrology Paradigm™ and is also known as The Giamario Approach™, both protected by legally issued service mark.